Every year, ESPN unveils an “anthem” to tie together its coverage of college football. No matter which ESPN channel you’re watching, so long as you’re watching college football programming, you’re probably going to hear this song, whether you like it for not.
The chosen bands and songs over the years tell a story of shifting trends. Way back in 2009, Dave Matthews Band was the “Official Band of ESPN’s 2009 College Football Coverage.” In 2014, Fall Out Boy spend the season lighting th’mup mup mup to the point where they had to apologize because everyone was so sick of their song. In 2016, “Collider” by X Ambassadors and Tom Morello was the official anthem and you might remember “Walk on Water” by 30 Seconds to Mars as 2017’s anthem.
Now it’s Imagine Dragons’ turn with the announcement that their new single “Natural” has been chosen as this year’s college football anthem.
If you want to hear some good, old-fashioned marketing gobblygook about why ESPN chose the song, Emeka Ofodile, ESPN vice president of sports marketing, says in a press release that “‘Natural’ embodies the energy, spirit, and drama of each team’s journey to the College Football Playoff, and that is why it was chosen as this year’s anthem.”
The anthem choice is part of a collaboration between ESPN, Interscope Records, and Universal Music Group Nashville, which might have also played a part in why the specific song was chosen. It’s also nothing new that Imagine Dragons will be front and center musically during sporting events. As The Ringer notes, their inoffensive brand of motivation-rock has become de rigueur for networks looking to promote sporting events for years now. It’s not uncommon to see them perform at halftime of a major sporting event and it’s basically a lock they’ll be performing on an ESPN broadcast coming soon to your living room as well.
So we already know this song is going to invade our brains like a burrowing worm. The real question is, which part of it will become a meme? Odds favor the way lead singer teases out “You’re a Nat-ur-al” in the final line of the chorus. It’s no “you made me a, you made me a believer, believer,” but it’ll do.
Per ESPN’s release, Imagine Dragons will be joined by One Republic, DJ Snake, Keith Urban, Eric Church, Jamie N Commons, Jay Rock, SUR, and more artists in the breaks between college football action, promos, and commercials all season long.